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Concord Sage Book Reviews

Amazon Book Reviews

“This historical biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson offers insight and interesting trivia of daily life in early New England from the beginning of the American Revolution to the Civil War. It shows the influence Emerson and the other authors of that time had on each other. It also offers an interesting spiritual heritage as it shows how churches were thinking and developing at this time. This would be a good resource for home schoolers, especially those who have shied away from studying Emerson.” – Dana Barlow

“The author does a good job of telling us about Emerson and who his contemporaries were and how he interacted with them as well as to events of his time. This book helped me better place Emerson in his place in history.” –  Jacqueline L. Budd

Book Review

Concord Sage: R.W. Emerson Life and Times
by Donna A. Ford
Amazon Digital Services
reviewed by John E. Roper

“At three years old, Ralph Waldo was a slow reader and didn’t enjoy learning. Perhaps he didn’t like reciting facts from memory. He did like blowing bubbles from soap and water with a pipe.”

Most American high school students are required to read a few pithy selections from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Usually they are paired with works by his young protégé Henry Thoreau, and often readers come away with the impression that while the mentor was rather aloof and stodgy his more free-spirited disciple was “pretty cool.” But there was much more to Emerson than what is revealed in his writings, a fact which the author aptly illustrates in her new biography of one of the nation’s most famous thinkers.

Ford begins her book with a brief look backward at Emerson’s ancestors in Concord to help describe the environment he was growing up in. She then goes on to detail in a few short chapters the life, loves, friendships, and painful losses he experienced as he journeys from relative obscurity to national prominence. One of the more interesting parts deals with his interaction with Abraham Lincoln and how Emerson’s own hatred of slavery possibly helped influence the President to take a stand with the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.

The author has geared her book for young adults but it should also appeal to older audiences. Her prose is straightforward and informative yet engaging enough to keep the reader’s interest. Possibly the greatest gift this book brings to the study of Emerson is that it doesn’t so much focus on his writings, as so many other studies about him do, but instead shows us the man. She has taken the cold statue of the philosopher from the ivory tower contemporary thinking has placed him in and transformed him into flesh and blood.


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